IBM Connections is getting a major overhaul and it looks like the last two years of hard work by IBM has taken the social collaboration platform to a whole new level.

Project Vulcan Has Officially Been Delivered

I remember thinking it was a silly name for a project based in 2010 when IBM first announced it at the Lotusphere conference that January. But what we'll see today at the 2012 conference is the fruits of that labor and it's pretty good. Here is what the project was said to deliver:

  • Cloud and On-premise computing
  • Collaborative business apps and social networks
  • Delivery across all channels and devices including desktop, mobile and netbooks

And deliver it, IBM has.

All of these things IBM continues to see as the trends of the future as they indicated in a recent report on 2011 Tech Trends.

Last year, they offered the Social Business Toolkit, which was the Activity Stream and the APIs). This year we see the culmination of efforts from IBM and its partners to take that toolkit and deliver a set of tools and apps that offer a truly integrated "social business".

IBM Connections in True Business Mode

There's never been much question on IBM Connections' value to an organization. The social software platform has been at the top of most analyst lists for its capabilities for a while now. But for the most part, it has kind of stood on its own, away from email and calendaring, away from business process integration and offering only basic analytics.

That's about to change though as IBM prepares to unveil the upcoming new version of IBM Connections on the stage at Lotusphere today. And that's not all they will reveal, but let's start with this train of though before we move on.

Let's start with the new landing page for Connections -- the new Dashboard. According to Jeff Schick, VP Social Software for IBM, this is where you'll spend a lot of your time from now on. Connections will become your new home page where everything you need to know is right at your finger tips:

ibm_connections_dashboard.jpg

IBM Connections Dashboard

The Activity Stream

Do you remember that conversation I had with Ed Brill, Director, Messaging and Collaboration, IBM Lotus software back in April of last year? The one where he talked about the importance of the activity stream and the work IBM was doing with it? You see some of that in the new version of IBM Connections today.

Built on the open social standard, this activity stream now not only supports updates from within Connections directly, but can also support updates from third party applications. And let's take it a step further. Not only can you get updates in your activity stream from third party apps, but you can also perform the business processing you need to do based on those updates from embedded apps with Connections.

So if someone shares a document, you will be able to view and work on that document within the homepage of Connections via an embedded app. Or if someone submits an expense report for approval, you will be able to view that report within Connections and approve it or (or ask the submitter questions, etc..).

The idea here is that it is a bit of a pain to go to all these different apps that you use to complete many of your daily tasks. Working on them within the Connections Dashboard, gives you access to the information, and also the social tools that most people are coming to rely on to get their work done faster.

With the help of its partners, there is already a wide spectrum of embedded apps, including SAP, enterprise content management, salesforce.com, salesforce automation and more.

Analytics Take Center Stage

The best update to Connections is the new analytics capabilities that will help bring to the user the most relevant information required to get their work done. These new analytics combine information across wikis, blogs, email, calendar, activity streams and more. It will help you filter your activity stream for the most important work you need to be aware of.

You will also get metrics and reporting across your entire environment, both internal and external, providing usage and content patterns. It's this real-time analytics that will help organizations understand and react to both customer and market trends and employee sentiment.

With this information in hand, Connections will enable "one click" creation of social networks (communities), for either internal or external to quickly respond to changing trends or negative sentiment.

Email & Calendaring

You will also now have access to your email and calendars within Connections using the new Connections Mail application. Schick referred to it as similar to your LinkedIn Mail, giving you access to your LotusNotes Mail and Calendar (or your Exchange email) directly within the social platform, including the ability to view attachments:


IBM Connections Mail

connections_mail.jpg

On Prem, In the Cloud

The new version of IBM Connections will be available both on premise and in IBM's SmartCloud. And you already know that it's available on pretty much every mobile device available.

You can learn more about what's happening with IBM Connections if you watch the live stream broadcast of Lotusphere2012 right now, but for those who don't have time to listen in, we have a couple more announcements from IBM coming shortly.